The study of optics is technically a branch of the scientific discipline of physics however its applications are used in a variety of sectors in modern society. So what are optics? Optics in its most literal sense is the study of the behavior of light. Primary areas of study are with visible light, ultraviolet, infrared and electromagnetic radiation (microwaves, x-rays and radio waves). Today, optic technology is used heavily within the military for ground troops, armor and aircraft to provide a distinct advantage in combat.
Combat operations utilize the optics technology to provide an advantage of visibility in conditions that might be unfavorable for warfare. The most obvious example of this is through the use of night vision goggles which actually are considered to be a light amplifying device. Night vision goggles work by amplifying existing light to a level where visibility can be distinguished through the optical feed. These types of devices can be used to scout enemy positions and assess and engage threats that believe they are masked by environmental effects.
Ultraviolet optical devices are used heavily in scientific studies and fields. This type of light wave is also very useful in fields such as forensics and biology. Ultraviolet radiation is a phenomenon that is ever present on Earth, but highly dangerous for most life forms. UV rays emitted from the sun can cause damage to living tissue by causing cancer, sunburns and eye damage. Ultraviolet light waves are shorter than the visible spectrum, making it practically invisible to the naked eye. Technological applications typically utilize chemicals that react to ultraviolet light waves to create a visible marking, most commonly a glowing effect to illuminate the reactions of UV rays.
Infrared optical devices are used primarily for thermal imaging situations which allow the viewer to see what is beyond the visible spectrum of light. This helps dramatically in military situations allowing an aircraft or ground personnel to view target that emit heat in conditions of low visibility. Police helicopters, unmanned drones, helicopters, planes and satellites utilize infrared cameras to relay and transmit images of potential enemy targets while being masked either from a distance or due to other visibility inhibitions in a local area.
Lasers are amplified light waves which emit electromagnetic radiation through stimulated photons. These highly concentrated light beams are still in the early stages of research and development, although there are many variations of these available today. Lasers can be used for medical applications in surgery, military applications as a marker to paint a target, and potentially as weapons in the near future. There already exists some defense technologies that utilize highly concentrated lasers to shoot down incoming missiles by heating the armament to a level where it self destructs.